Many expecting mothers are concerned that their dog may not adjust well to being around a new family member, yet with some simple preparation most dogs adapt quickly. We contacted expert trainers and behaviorists — Wendy Dek, owner of Canine Advanced Training Services; Kellie Snider, Animal Behavior Program Manager at SPCA of Texas; Scott Sheaffer of USA Dog Behavior; Mark Minnerly of Dallas Dog Trainer; Erin Tate DVM Medical Committee Chair from City Vet — to get advice on handling your pup during pregnancy.
Although no concrete evidence supports that dogs can sense pregnancy in their owners, anecdotal evidence supports it. Dogs are known to be extremely attuned to their owners’ emotions and body language – something pregnant women might notice through changes in hormone levels during gestation that dogs are likely picking up on. Dogs have even been trained to detect low blood sugar in diabetics and detect certain odors associated with seizures.
Pregnancy hormones can trigger similar mood swings to that experienced by pregnant dogs, making them more clingy and unwilling to leave their owner’s side. Furthermore, pregnant dogs may become irritable or anxious after giving birth – all signs that postpartum depression or anxiety is present.
As puppies or babies are born, it can become common for dogs to become overprotective of the family unit and it’s essential that boundaries be set to protect everyone involved, says Ms. Snider. She suggests allowing your pup into the nursery only when its mother is present while using a baby gate to limit access from other members or strangers; using high-value treats like cheese or hotdog as rewards when your pup behaves appropriately in its presence of baby(ies).
Unfamiliar dogs with newborn or infant can be extremely distressed, which could result in aggression towards both parties involved. Therefore, it’s essential that someone trusted (e.g. the dog’s mother) monitor any interactions between the infant and dog until both parties feel at ease with one another.
If your dog is unfamiliar with being handled by others, make an effort to train it to lie down while grooming and avoid any attempts at rough play. If he displays signs of stress or aggression during this process, contact a behaviorist or veterinarian as soon as possible for advice and help. For more information about dog behavior visit our Dog Behavior FAQ page.